Saudi Arabia had sultans

The Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel Asis al-Saud died at the age of 85. King Abdullah's half-brother succumbed to an unspecified illness this Saturday, according to a report on Saudi Arabian television. Crown Prince Sultan was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and Aviation. His death now raises the question of who will take his place in the line of succession in the Saudi royal family.

Sultan had been sick for a long time. According to information from government circles in Riyadh, he died in a hospital in New York. There he was operated on in 2009 for an officially unspecified illness. According to a US dispatch published by the platform Wikileaks, Sultan was suffering from colon cancer. After surgery, he recovered for almost a year in the United States and Morocco.

King Abdullah himself is 87 years old and is also not in the best of health. Only last weekend he went to a Riyadh hospital for a back operation. The most likely candidate for the succession to the throne after Sultan is now Prince Najef, the influential Minister of the Interior. After the Sultan's illness, the king appointed him second deputy prime minister in 2009.

The succession to the throne is not very clear. It is also conceivable that King Abdullah will hand over the decision on the next crown prince to a council that he set up ten years ago and that consists of his brothers and nephews. That could lead to discussions in the family, but in this case too, 78-year-old Najef is the favorite.

According to the palace, the memorial service for the Sultan is to take place in Riyadh on Tuesday. He leaves behind several women and 32 children. Among them are his sons Bandar, the former ambassador to the United States who heads the National Security Council of Saudi Arabia, and Chaled, who was the Sultan's employee in the Department of Defense.